Hot & Steamy in Mompos

Trip Start Nov 15, 2006
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Wednesday, October 10, 2007

We've passed the night for 30 pesos in Sincelejo in a good value hotel called Hotel Casa Blanca (details below). Had a brief wander through the lively streets last night. Sat on stools in the street watching the world go by while munching on arepas with queso (savoury corn cakes with cheese cooked on a grill). Amazing how 3 or 4 vendors all selling the same product can work amicably side by side. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (with Johnny Depp) is on, so we make use of our TV before bed.

This morning we strike out for Mompos via the town plaza. We meet a guy who says he can get us a direct bus to Mompos if we wait 20 minutes and are kept company by a woman friend of his who has a cute baby girl. We wait for a short time, but it feels a bit fishy so move on to the place where the collectivos leave from. We negotiate a shared taxi and surprise, surprise, our man shows up and also pays a fare to Mompos. Typical scam, harmless but annoying - he has obviously tried for the last 20 minutes to negotiate a price with a taxi so he can contract the service to us for much more. In this case, easy to avoid, but sometimes not so simple because you don't realise that you're not buying from source!

The shared taxi drops us at a market by the river in Magangué where the boats leave for La Bodega. We're immediately assailed by sellers wanting to know where we're going. The market is buzzing with fresh fish stalls, fruit and vegetables, and lottery tickets. Half an hour later we're in a lunch heading up river, then through a gap in a wall of watery vegetation onto what seems a different river, and finally arrive at our destination. Another shared taxi ride along a paved but potholey road and we're deposited in the main plaza of Mompos.

It's immediately evident why Mompos is a popular place (though time-consuming to reach). It looks beautifully preserved, clean and tranquil. It's also stinking hot! The accomodation options on the main street have risen in price markedly since the guidebook was updated. I find a great value place near the cemetary called La Cuarta (details below) for $25 pesos a night. By late afternoon, we've each sunk 3 fresh icy-cold juices. We finish the night at a cosy corner by the river, listening to salsa and watching birds hitching a free ride on the islands of vegetation floating with the current.

Next day is memorable on a couple of counts.

The first is Alfredo, a larger-than-life camp English-language teacher from the local school. He's enlisted the kids to go forth and capture all english-speaking tourists and bring them back to his classroom. When he hears we're from Australia and New Zealand - "But you don't speak English there!" Maybe the rest of the world wouldn't call "ostrayan" english, but it does have vague similarities. We expected to be paraded bafore the class for question-time, but no, we think we have been enlisted in his propaganda war to prove to the head teacher that he speaks good English (i.e. can converse freely with foreigners). Later that night after a quick tour of the town on a three-wheel taxi bike including a tipple at the local wine company, he treats us to a plate of tripe soup.

The second memorable event is watching some teenage boys swimming in the river and doing somersaults off the retaining wall. Well, not so much this, but observing as they walk away a pistol changing hands - something to briefly balance the absolute safety and tranquility you feel in this environment.

Hotel Casa Blanca, Calle 22, No 18-53 ph 282 0306
La Cuarta, Carrera 4, No 18-57, ph 6840127
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